Deb Dana’s Favorite Literary Pranks

I’m not a prankster. Whether that’s down to a lack of imagination or an aversion to getting in trouble, I’m not sure, but all I know is that if there is a prank to be had, I’m usually at the receiving end.

Some might say I’m gullible. I say I’m “trusting” and “earnest.” Whatever the case, if you tell me there is such at thing as “Skittlebrau,” a beer flavored with Skittles, or that the server in my college dining hall is actually Sade’s mother, I will probably believe you. (Note: In the latter case, said dining hall server did actually believe she was Sade’s mother, so it wasn’t so much a prank as it was a case of extreme delusion…)

All of that being the case, I’m more likely to enjoy reading about a good prank than participating in one. And since this is a blog hosted by writers, I thought I’d share some of my favorite literary pranks, in no particular order.

The VW Beetle Prank in A Prayer for Owen Meany: When Owen gets mad at the school-appointed psychologist for continually parking his VW Beetle in Owen’s parking space at school, Owen gets the basketball team to carry the car from the parking space to the school auditorium, where everyone will see it on stage at the morning meeting. Hijinks ensue.

Minny’s Pie in The Help: I dare you to find a reader who didn’t revel in Minny’s “terrible awful,” which gave Hilly Holbrook quite the surprise. Schadenfreude, anyone?

Creative Toilet Disposal in The Help: Another prank at Hilly Holbrook’s expense. Loved it.

Office Pranks in Then We Came to the End: Hiding sushi rolls in Joe Pope’s cubicle (and leaving them to fester)…rotating the coveted office chairs around the office…Joshua Ferris’ debut novel was filled with A+ office pranks.

Lisbeth Salander’s Tattoo on Nils Bjurman in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: This isn’t a funny ha-ha prank, but as a reader, I cheered for Lisbeth as she gave her abusive guardian his comeuppance.

Dear reader, I know there are many other pranks I’ve enjoyed in books over the years, but at the moment, my brain cannot recall more than these five. Why? Probably because I’ve been up with a newborn for the past three weeks and am working on minimal amounts of sleep. So help me out. What are YOUR favorite pranks in literature? Do tell!


4 Replies to “Deb Dana’s Favorite Literary Pranks”

  1. Please tell me you wrote this before you were the mother of a gorgeous newborn baby. Because even on a full night’s sleep and two almost-grown kids, I couldn’t have come up with this list. The only prank that comes to mind is in Ferris Bueller when Ferris and Cameron steal the dad’s car. Prank gone awry, it’s true. But a valiant effort!

  2. What Amy said. I wanted to add a great literary prank to your list but all I could come up with is Carrie. That is a prank, maybe, but not in the spirit your list was intended.

    Tell the truth. You have sold Alexander, haven’t you, so you can get some proper rest? We won’t judge.

  3. Literary pranks….

    … In 9th grade English, I sneaked into the room early every day for a month and hid all the chalk and erasers in the hung ceiling so the teacher couldn’t use the chalkboard. But that probably isn’t the kind of prank you were looking for. (I have, however, considered using it in a book at some point.)

    When it comes to real literary pranks, I think the only one I’m coming up with is Tom Sawyer faking his own death and attending his own funeral. That one is aces, though.

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